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Talent Acquisition Interviews

Observations from a Talent Acquisition Leader


John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting for the World's Largest Employer

Published on March 21 2013
John Delpino Talent Acquisition Channel Interview on TotalPicture RadioJohn Delpino

For over 20 years, John Delpino was Director of Executive Staffing at PepsiCo in Purchase, New York. Then... he moved to Bentonville, Arkansas.

"If you look at the Fortune 500, there are about 100 or 120 [senior HR] people who were trained, at some point in their career, at PepsiCo. No other company can come close, not even GE," says Hal Johnson, a managing partner for Korn/Ferry International who has recruited top HR talent for and from Purchase, N.Y.-based PepsiCo over the years." Human Resource Executive

John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting at Walmart. Prior to joining Walmart in 2009, John spent 20-plus years as director of Executive Staffing at PepsiCo. Welcome to a Talent Acquisition Channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio, with Peter Clayton reporting. I met John at the recent IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia and, as a true legend in HR and recruiting, asked him to share some of his wisdom with us today.

"Some of our best recruiting is done when we literally don't have an open position... Aspire to be a chef not a short-order cook." John Delpino

John Delpino IACPR Interview. TotalPicture Radio

Reimagining, reinventing, meeting today's talent challenges. Welcome to Philadelphia and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013. This is Peter Clayton reporting. TotalPicture Radio's official coverage here at the IACPR conference is brought to you in partnership with Riviera Advisors, a premier global human resources consulting firm specialized in helping organizations develop stronger internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com for a wealth of resources focused on corporate talent acquisition issues and solutions.

John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting at Wal-Mart. Prior to joining Wal-Mart in 2009, John spent 20+ years as Director of Executive Staffing at PepsiCo.

Welcome to a talent acquisition channel podcast on TotalPicture Radio. This is Peter Clayton reporting. I met John at the recent IACPR global conference and as a true legend in HR and recruiting, asked him to share some of his wisdom with us today. John, welcome to TotalPicture Radio.

John: Thanks. It's good to be here, Peter.

Peter: I want to quote from an article that appeared in Human Resource Executive several years ago titled Products at Pepsi. If you look at the Fortune 500 there are about 100 or 120 senior HR people who were trained at some point at their career at PepsiCo. No other company can come close; not even GE says Hal Johnson a managing partner for Korn/Ferry International who has recruited top HR talent for and from Purchase, New York based PepsiCo over the years. John, what was it about Pepsi that produced so many rock stars in HR and recruiting?

John: Peter, it really all started with a guy named Mike Feiner who was the head of HR at Pepsi when I joined them in 1988, relocating from the Frito-Lay division. Michael is a real visionary who effectively demonstrated the strategic value of HR being a key member of the executive leadership team. He set the bar for high standards for quality of hire. His many disciples became the keepers of the flame and for those of us that were around in the late 80s and early 90s, we refer to it as Camelot. You have a business standpoint where we were minting money on the business side, we were taking share from Coke, life was good.

We hired the best talent of the top ILR campuses, as well as experienced folks from people who had great programs like GE, GTE, Ingersoll Rand, and Xerox and put them pretty roughly through field and subsequently headquarters roles. It was during those finishing school assignments at headquarters where we evaluated their influencing skills and capabilities against increasingly complex and more sophisticated problems as well as senior client groups.

Peter: It sounds to me like even way back then in the 80s the C-suite recognized the real value and the strategic value that recruiting and HR could bring to the organization.

John: It's interesting that you mention that, Peter, because I helped this gentleman write the article and did most of the backup on who was where and it was funny, he was only interested in people that were in HR at that time, late 80s-early 90s, that were still in HR. He didn't care about people that went on to become a COO or a CEO or the Vice Chairman at Gateway. So he was very, very purist about his interest.

Peter: That's interesting to hear because obviously a lot of these people then did transfer into different roles within the organization.

John: Oh, yeah, yeah. Some stayed in the organization, some left but went on to be the Vice Chairman of Gateway, the CEO of KFC, the COO of Pizza Hut just to name a few. These are Fortune 500 companies.

Peter: Right. Exactly. Speaking about the article here's another quote from HR Executive:

Make no mistake; shared memories of the PepsiCo HR experience are anything but warm and fuzzy. Quite the opposite, in fact. Legend and personal accounts tell the story of an environment that was, at times, harsh if not downright brutal. "There's no lifeguard at the PepsiCo pool," was one popular expression at the time.

John from your perspective, is this an accurate assessment of what was going on then?

John: Undoubtedly Peter you're referring to the muscle building years, which were a very tough but necessary part of PepsiCo's evolution. So if we hired 10 folks, at the end of a year or two years, two or three would get promoted, and some of them would decide they didn't like the heat in the kitchen and others that didn't get promoted would leave. That was a really critical time of the growth of the organization, but as they over time built a critical base of bench strengths and the culture changed it became a very, very different place.

Peter: One of the things that's so interesting about PepsiCo is the culture of that organization and that you have a true competitor in Coke.

John: Yes.

Peter: Yeah. That makes that relationship sort of different from what exists in many corporations when they don't have that one true competitor that they're going to market against.

John: Yeah, we'd wake up every day thinking about if we could take a linear foot of space in a supermarket or poke them in the eye with advertising, that's a pretty good day. Yeah, Roger Enrico was once alleged to have said that if Coke didn't exist we'd have to create somebody to hate. But I think at the end of the day there was a mutual respect for the other guys. We wore blue, they wore red.

Peter: Right. Exactly. John, what did you learn at PepsiCo that's relevant today regarding talent acquisition that you can share with our audience?

John: Some things don't change, Peter. The importance of developing long-term relationships or in today's notion you'd call it CRM, I think having an unyielding standard on quality because like all the recruiters, we really like to live vicariously through the success of others that we helped guide into the organization. I would say what we call today the candidate experience I used to call it the courtship approach, because that has a far different connotation than a recruiting process might conjure up. But at the end of the day, whether a person did or did not succeed in getting the position, they were all consumers or customers. So ensuring the experience was as good on the backend as it was on the frontend was really critical.

Peter: Yeah, absolutely and like we heard at the IACPR conference recently that a number of, even the senior people who were part of some of these panel discussions were talking about the fact that once they got placed in a job they never heard from the recruiter again. Right?

John: It's important what we call service after the sale.

Peter: Yeah, exactly. What's the biggest change you've seen over your career in recruiting?

John: I think far and away probably going back into the late 90s was really technology. It serves as a real leveler of the playing field in large part providing many of the recruiters with much of the same access as our search partners.

Peter: In doing the research on this interview I went on your LinkedIn profile and one of your former associates at PepsiCo wrote this recommendation on your profile.

John is clearly one of the best staffing professionals in the United States. He has superb assessment skills and has a great bias for action. He has trained many HR professionals as well as line managers on the art and science of selecting talent.

Is recruiting great talent both an art and a science?

John: Peter, without a doubt and I try to instill that in over 50 recruiting managers who work for me at Pepsi and there's a quote that I'll use, it dates me a bit. It's phrase from Alvin Toffler's 1970 futurist book called Future Shock where he had a caution which was beware of high tech, low touch. I've asked people about this in a more recent audience and they said what was it email or the fax machine? No, it was ATMs. It was the advent of ATMs overtaking and replacing the friendly and ubiquitous bank tellers. Today's caution is to not let the science and technology forego the art of the deal.

To me, it's imperative to remember that there is another human being involved making critical decisions regarding their career, their family, their livelihood, which requires meaningful dialogue to understand their core needs and motivations and to engage in authentic and empathetic manner with their best interests in mind that things are not easily transmitted electronically nor discernible on a LinkedIn profile.

Peter: John, I have to ask you this question. How were you lured to Bentonville, Arkansas and Wal-Mart out of Purchase, New York?

John: That's a great story so after 23 years at Pepsi I had the opportunity to capitalize on a early retirement window, and I felt full well that I'd be working for a Manhattan based search firm. I was schlepping in and out of the city from Richfield, Connecticut on a pretty routine basis, and I was at the point where I was fielding several offers when I got the call. The call was from Fred Ley who is Senior VP of Global Talent Acquisition at Wal-Mart. Fred happened to be the same person who rehired me at Frito-Lay in 1986 and he asked me if I was relocatable and I said yeah, we're not kind of wedded to Fairfield. He said how about to Bentonville, Arkansas; and I said well I've never been.

Long story short, we made a trip down here, we're transitioned down and today after almost 4 years, I'm enjoying the pure satisfaction of globally recruiting executives to Wal-Mart and we affectionately refer to northwest Arkansas as suburban without the urban.

Peter: From what I understand, you have a pretty great museum there now.

John: Crystal Bridges is phenomenal. This past weekend we were over there because they've got a Norman Rockwell exhibit that was pretty spectacular. There was an article in Southern Living that I got a link to that the headline was Is Bentonville the New Cultural Mecca of the South? A lot of places in the Midwest and perhaps Northeast that are in decline, this place is on its way up.

Peter: I'm assuming the cultures are really quite different between PepsiCo and Wal-Mart but is the process of recruiting executives basically the same?

John: First of all I'll tell you Peter, the cultures are quite different, yes. And actually I think the process is easier at Wal-Mart. I work for Fred Ley and Fred over the last 8 years has done some pretty heavy lifting convincing an organization that was almost an exclusively promote from within organization to not solely rely on promotion from within in the executive ranks. While today we're still at probably 70% plus, it's done so in many cases with a snapshot into what the external market has to bear. We also have senior leaders quite willing to hire in advance of the need. They just have a best athlete on the bench and at the ready. So I'd argue that some of our best recruiting is done when we literally don't have an open position.

Peter: That's really interesting. So you're in a culture now that really looks at recruiters more as consultants than just order fillers?

John: Yeah, it's the old analogy of that I like to train my guys; you don't go into hiring authority with five résumés and ask him who he wants to see. You go in and tell him here's the three I'm bringing in. So you have to get that level of confidence and capability and confidence with the line managers to do such things.

Peter: John, what's changed in your ability and your approach to sourcing and recruiting top talent today?

John: I think I mentioned before Wal-Mart has a voracious appetite to know who the best and the brightest folks are out there and whether it's over the near term or the short term, it's developing those relationships of people that we want on our team and how do we induce the leadership team to be part that process, whether it's Mike Duke going out once a quarter with Fred Ley and having lunch or breakfast with various people that we just want to get to know.

Peter: I want to return for a second, you brought up the candidate experience earlier and obviously there's a lot of conversation today in HR and recruiting about that topic and Jeremy Eskenazki moderated a session at IACPR on the topic of the candidate experience as it relates specifically to the candidate experiences of executives in career transition I was surprised to hear as with all candidates it's not all that great. So how would you rate the candidate experience at the world's largest employer?

John: Actually and I say this humbly, I think it's pretty good and the reason I say that is we have in many cases an unknown geography and so we're like the Avis; we've got to try a little harder to make sure that people have an above average experience. So it's very, very hands on. I spend the day walking candidates from place to place and we get them out on area tours and those kind of things.

Having said that, there's always some room for improvement. I think where the challenges lie more readily, and this is perhaps pervasive across my colleagues, at the professional level it's that constant battle of trying to balance the high req loads that may not avail as much time to squire candidates through the process as you would like. On the executive level, the volumes are lower, the touch is higher.

Peter: What is the average time to fill an executive at Bentonville?

John: An executive, I'd say 90 to 120 days.

Peter: That's pretty fast these days from what I've heard.

John: We have a challenge that things move pretty quick around here and if you're not willing to in 60 days, all of a sudden the internal person can start looking a lot better. Our challenge is to try and get in front of that.

Peter: John, what was some of your takeaways from the recent IACPR conference?

John: I've been involved for the last 25 years at this point and Ed Walsh the former head of PepsiCo being one of the founding members of it, we've been very active over the years, and I first and foremost find that it's a terrific networking forum amongst peers. This particular year I felt the agenda was very rich and diverse. Two areas that I particularly enjoyed, not that I didn't enjoy all of them, but Soren Kaplan's talk about his book Leapfrogging, the implications for innovations. I've already turned on our innovations onto the book. I also to your point, enjoyed the Jeremy's session. He's always a great panel leader and facilitator. I think the sessions in many cases are somewhat validating when you realize you're not suffering in silence but actually dealing with comparable issues as many of your peers.

Peter: One last question for you John; what's the best advice you ever received regarding talent acquisition?

John: I'd have to say there's two. The first one is don't ever settle. Much of our jobs I referred to earlier with the 60 day window, it's to prevent the hiring manager from shooting low and making a suboptimal decision because the outcome is generally not good for any of the parties involved.

The second thing is - and I'll give full attribution of this quote from a colleague and friend Rusty Roof who's a true luminary in the talent acquisition space. The quote was "aspire to be a chef, not a short order cook." If you think about it for a second, a short order cook is in the moment. Long range planning is the length of their arm. Two eggs over easy, rye toast. A chef is creative, imaginative, innovative, proactive, always looking around the corner for new and emerging trends. The sort of things that differentiate a good recruiter from a great recruiter.

Peter: I think that's a great quote. John, thank you very much for taking time to speak with us today here on TotalPicture Radio.

John: Delighted Peter. Thanks for your time.

Peter: John Delpino is Senior Director of Executive Recruiting at Wal-Mart.

You've been listening to the official IACPR Spring Global Conference 2013 podcast series produced by TotalPicture Radio in association with Riviera Advisors. You'll find a complete transcript of this interview in the Talent Acquisition channel at totalpicture.com and a complete library of in-depth interviews featuring talent acquisition and HR leaders in the newsroom and events link on rivieraadvisors.com. Take a moment to visit Riviera Advisors and learn what makes them different. And please connect with Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.

This is Peter Clayton, thanks for tuning in.

Some Recruiter I Used to Know


IACPR Closing Session. The Elephant in the Room: Is Executive Recruiting Moving In-House? Can Search Firms Survive?

Published on March 18 2013
David Lord, TotalPicture Radio IACPR Conference interviewDavid Lord

Some Recruiter I Used To Know:
Now and then I think of when you first called my number
And when you said you had a job that I should try
Asked myself if you were right for me
But you said that we should have coffee
And from that day you showered me with lots of attention
(Parody YouTube video)

David Lord led the closing session at the IACPR Spring Conference - a lively "open mic" discussion with the executive recruiters and HR leaders in the room titled "Banishing the Elephants in the Room." David started by directing our attention to a YouTube parody music video (based on Gotye 'Somebody I Use To Know') changed to Some Recruiter I Used to Know -- the story of a young lawyer pursued by a headhunter (see the link in the sidebar). An entertaining reflection of the perception many people have of recruiters. Elephant #1 at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia - the trend toward moving executive recruiting in-house. This trend is real, as recently reported in the Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek, in an article titled; "These days Anybody can Headhunt." Really?

David Lord is a leading independent authority on the selection and engagement of executive search consultants and on how large organizations can best manage their executive recruiting activity. David has been independently tracking the performance of executive search consultants for more than 20 years, first as a journalist and since 1995 as a consultant to large corporations on the selection and engagement of search firms.Today, David facilitates the Executive Search Information Exchange, a research and discussion group for heads of executive recruiting from more than 50 leading corporations. He is also the founder and facilitator of the Executive Search Academy, a two-day course in best practices held twice a year in New York for corporate executive recruiting professionals.

Stay tuned... A complete transcript of David's interview will air soon!

IACPR Global Conference - The Successful Candidate Experience


Best Practices in Enhancing the Candidate Experience for Senior Executives.

Published on March 11 2013
Susan Blackburn, Regional Executive with Sabadell United Bank, TotalPicture Radio InterviewSusan Blackburn

There is always competition for A Players. Here's one very real, very timely story told by the participants.

"In three instances I was so taken aback at how what I'll call broken that process was, having used recruitment firms myself in the past and then being on the other side of the desk I really saw where the disconnects were apparent and it all boiled down to communication and understanding the corporate culture and being able to articulate that to a candidate." Susan Blackburn

Are you an HR leader or executive recruiter? You'll want to take the time to listen to this interview. Are you considering a career move, or are currently in transistion? If so, you need to listen to this podcast. Why? our special guest is Susan Blackburn, Regional Executive with Sabadell United Bank in Tampa, Florida. She shares with us, in detail, her recent experience of being recruited by four financial institutions, and what led her to accepting an offer from a bank (having spent over thirty years in the finacial services industry)... she'd never heard of.

This is Peter Clayton with a special Talent Acquisition Channel podcast from the IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia.

Adam Lloyd Webber Kerr Associates, TotalPicture Radio InterviewAdam Lloyd
Joining in our conversation is Adam Lloyd, president of Webber Kerr Associates, a retained executive search firm. Adam conducted the search for Sabadell United Bank, successfully placing Susan in her new role. Prior to this search assignment, Adam had never met Susan.

As the competition for top talent in executive roles escalates, companies, HR directors and recruiters need to make sure they are optimizing the candidate experience and, at the same time, elevating their employer brand when conducting searches - especially when that search involves A Players like Susan.

At the recent IACPR Global Conference, Jeremy Eskenazi, Managing Principal of Riviera Advisors, moderated a panel discussion focused on the candidate experience. The panel was comprised of senior level candidates - including Ms. Blackburn - who recently have gone through the hiring process. Joining them on the panel were two corporate executive recruiters, Cormac Cullinane, Vice President, Worldwide Recruitment & Executive Search, Time Warner; and Kathleen Gioffre Global Vice President of Talent Acquisition, Gartner, Inc.

The Successful Candidate Experience - TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Reimagining, reinventing, meeting today's talent challenges. Welcome to Philadelphia and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013. This is Peter Clayton reporting. TotalPicture Radio's official coverage here at the IACPR Conference is brought to you in partnership with Riviera Advisors, a premier global human resources consulting firm specialized in helping organizations develop stronger, internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com for a wealth of resources focused on corporate talent acquisition issues and solutions.

The successful candidate experience. As the competition for top talent in the executive roles escalates, companies' HR directors and recruiters need to make sure they are optimizing the candidate experience and at the same time, elevating their employer brand when conducting searches especially for senior level talent.

At the recent IACPR Global Conference in Philadelphia, Jeremy Eskanazi, managing principal of Riviera Advisors moderated a panel discussion focused on the candidate experience comprised of senior level candidates who recently have gone through the hiring process as well as executive recruiters from Time Warner and Gartner.

Hi this is Peter Clayton. Joining me today for the Special Talent Acquisition Channel Podcast from the IACPR Conference is one of the candidate panelist Susan Blackburn who recently joined Sabadell United Bank in Tampa, Florida. Along with Susan, we have with us Adam Lloyd, president of Webber Kerr Associates, a retained executive search firm based in Tampa. Adam conducted the search for Sabadell United Bank and successfully placed Susan in her new role.

Susan, I'd like to start with you. You shared a fascinating story with the audience here at IACPR regarding your career transition and how you were approached by different companies in both internal and external recruiters.

Susan: Certainly. As I have shared, I've been in banking for quite some time, 30+ years, and had never found myself in the openness or being receptive to talent recruiter and when I found that I was interested in a search, I had several firms calling me. The differentiation between them all really was a difference in collaborative mode versus I have an agenda and that's coming first, and that's really what I saw early on in the process.

In my search there were several firms that had reached out to me whether they were in house recruiters or external companies that had been hired by firms to recruit.

In three instances I was so taken aback at how what I'll call broken that process was, having used recruitment firms myself in the past and then being on the other side of the desk I really saw where the disconnects were apparent and it all boiled down to communication and understanding the corporate culture and being able to articulate that to a candidate. Other disconnects were just timing issues, whether it was a what I'll call a discombobulated process that really wasn't well thought out and then was a poor reflection on the company that I might have chosen to work for or the recruitment firm.

When the process did work which ultimately led me to making a positive career decision it brought it down to where the stars aligned. I had a talent recruiter from an outside firm who first off had done a tremendous amount of homework in level setting what the expectation of his client was and then translated into him vetting with potential candidates in a more factual, open and transparent way. That process started on the front end, it carried out through the interviewing and ultimately my job selection.

Peter: You know a lot of what was being mentioned in this panel you took part in today was this whole issue around transparency or not right? So can you delve into that for us a little bit more specially with some of these firms that were really pursuing you quite heavily and weren't being all that transparent about the role and responsibilities?

Susan: You're so right. What I had found was in several instances they were more focused. When I would ask pointed questions about their company and their role, trying to help them create the compelling story as to why I should work for them and again, I was very transparent in saying I have several options on the table, it was very difficult for them to focus internally and the feedback that I was getting is why I shouldn't work for others as opposed to why I should come with them.

I believe now in retrospect that so much of that was either a recruiter or someone internally who felt uncomfortable with the balancing act that they had to play and I'll explain that. Obviously as the person who is doing the recruiting, my ownership, if you will, my paycheck is going to come from the company that ultimately is going to hire that candidate. So being able to feel that alliance is critical but the flipside to that is being able to work with a candidate that you can be equally open and honest. If there's some disconnect between what you think that candidate is looking for or what that company is looking for and that match isn't right, the 'silence is golden' doesn't work here and that, I think, is what trips them up.

As I started to do my own homework on corporate cultures of companies that I might choose to work for because you certainly aren't going to rely just on the one person If you're not getting that information it became apparent to me in the process that my talent recruiter whether that was internal or external was not able to keep that balance going.

Peter: You have mentioned that you had this Sally Field moment. Can you describe that for us, please?

Susan: I did. You know, having been an executive for quite some time and carrying the leadership role, I wasn't in a job search and so at the moment that I had what I'll call the aha moment that yes, I was, and people started calling me, it really bore to many, many years of not taking that recruiter's call. There is no gap. I'm satisfied so I'm not going on a search. I think I likened it to lint on a sweater. Once there's a gap in your satisfaction and you're more receptive to take the call, you're listening on the other end. And I had a period of time where my organization was going through a lot of change, outside recruiters knew that was taking place and so they were contacting me.

It was the first time in my career that I had ever considered looking outside and I call it that Sally Field's moment where it's, "They like me! They really like me!" You know, and I'm going to be able to say, "Maybe I will go look for another role." Well, then you start to dig deeper and you find out that there's quite a lot of research that needs to go into that process.

Peter: One of the things I found really interesting about your panel is the fact that the senior level executives on that panel were not used to going out and doing a job search, had never actually been in that position before. They'd always been recruited by someone who was a referral or moved up within an organization, had never gone through that process of being contacted by an internal or an external recruiter. You mentioned that the external recruiter did a much more professional job of when connecting with you. Can you explain that process to us?

Susan: Certainly. And I want to come back to when you're looking at C level or senior level the roles, those individuals have led companies. So regardless of what their mindset had been in the past, these are - I hate to use this overused term but Type A take charge people. I will tell you that that process for that person regardless of what the motivator is, they're interviewing you, they're interviewing that company to determine "Is this the place I want to work?"

And in my particular case, I was measuring up these other companies when the recruiter who I'd never met before presented me with a company that I've never heard of. And it was startling. My first reaction was, "No, I'm not going to have yet another player in the fray." What made the difference? It was that external recruiter who had done his homework, looked at the skills and my background, knew culturally what the company was trying to accomplish and I call the PhD, he read the person, he was humble or use humility in the process of being transparent, honest, he had a role, I knew what it was, he knew what my role was, he knew what the role the company would be, and then he was deliberate, and was persistent.

That process really formed that three-legged stool and at first it was the bridge between he and the company but he quickly was able to bring me into that so that through this process of level setting was this the right opportunity for me, for Sabadell United Bank the recruiter played a key role for both of us and it was a much different experience than what I would call the sales pitch that I was hearing from other recruiters and a process that was well thought out, well vetted, and yet very transparent.

Peter: You know, I think that's a really interesting perspective because so often, when these internal recruiters go out and connect with someone like yourself, they have this assumption, "Well, of course, you would want to work for our company. It's a wonderful company."

Susan: Absolutely! You know, the other thing I've heard used so often is relationship. And I get that. I am all about relationship. I sell on that. But today's person is not just saying, "Hey, because I like you," or "You're a nice person," there has to be far more substance underneath that. And I have had so many chummy recruiters call. I don't need any more friends. I have a lot of them already. I need information. And so I think again that approach- what I'll call that sales approach- it has to have substance. And oftentimes, all I'm saying is, you know, the people connector, but nothing underneath it and it really has to be a different game in today's market for someone to shop and then buy.

Peter: Let's get the recruiter into this conversation. Adam, you dealt with a pretty tough customer here. I mean, she knew what she wanted, she had no idea who this bank was that you were pitching to her having been in the financial services industry for 35 year, so how did you approach Susan and get her interest?

Adam: Yeah, well, Susan's quite a talent and she mentioned substance and information. In our assessment of the market and it starts with a research, we identified Susan as quite a talent in our marketplace. You can align skill set, we have an understanding of what her career path has been. So the mentality in engaging Susan and talking to her is, hopefully, I have a conversation with her and in doing so and I think our panel today did a great job in discussing the importance of long-term view it's really how can I connect with Susan yes, of course, I have an opportunity today that I'd like to discuss with her and maybe that lines with her interest, perhaps it doesn't.

But Susan is definitely somebody that we're interested in engaging and speaking with so really in talking to her and again with any executive that you have the opportunity whether it's sitting down and having coffee or speaking with on the phone, you want to maximize the time they have spent and I think in our profession, oftentimes that means maximize your time by qualifying which personally, to me, I like to use the time to talk about the organization representing the opportunity and really approach him or her with a more exploratory, soft conversational type of meeting.

So when I approached Susan, first thing I wanted to do is really just get an understanding of where her mindset is right now. Is she in the marketplace? Maybe she's not even open today to even listening to opportunities. So first we're going to understand what is her mind set, what are her interests, and then, based upon some that initial information that she's providing me, I can then, hopefully be informative as I can about the opportunity and we'll determine if it's something that makes sense to proceed with today, if not, down the road, hopefully, there are opportunities for us.

Peter: So you had one recruiter approach you with a "Let's have a conversation and just see if there's a fit here," and other recruiters come, contact you saying, "We want you to come to work for our organization," is that basically the way it went?

Susan: Yeah, it really was and until you get through that initial dialogue, how do you know? And so, again, once felt a little abstract and one felt very much like a well thought out plan, "Let's have a conversation," and carry it.

Peter: One of the other things I would love for you to kind of deconstruct for us which also came out in the panel discussion, is the engagement. When you first started talking to these various financial organizations that wanted to bring you onboard, what was the differentiator between Sabadell and these other players?

Susan: Again, I had one bank who candidly, my mentor from 20 years ago, was asking me to come onboard. He had a new opportunity. I had a very large bank that was looking at me to take a significant leadership role and then there was another bank that was a Florida bank that would have given me a lot of geography to say grace over and all three, by a job market standpoint, would have been intriguing. But what was the difference for me?

Well, first, I have to tell you that having hired so many executives in my career, I needed to make sure that not only today - this wasn't just a job - but that culturally, I would blend in with that leadership team. So some of my analysis was clearly on the financial strength and structure but more as the vision and where was that company heading. So I needed to understand that and I needed to understand the role that they were asking me to come onboard for, how would that fit in with the organization over the long haul?

For whatever reason, I'll share, that there was a disconnect, I didn't fall in love, the rose-colored glasses just came off, and nothing compelled me to take that. The other, I'll have to say is that as you're a banker in a market as I had been for so many years, I had my own reputation. And when you're selling brand A, and you're telling your clients and your market area "brand A is great." And now you're turning around and all of a sudden, "Oh, no, I really meant brand B."

You know, for me I was like, "How am I going to be able to that?" When I talked to my recruiter and I spoke with Sabadell, I really was looking not at tomorrow but I was looking at a vision for 5, 10 years down the road and when this bank said "Today, Susan, we are the 6th largest bank headquartered in Florida. But make no mistake - we intend to be the largest bank headquartered in Florida within the next few years." That perked my interest. How? In a declining market, how do you intend to do that? And that's where relevancy came in.

As I looked at the landscape of banks in the Florida market or even across the country, what's going to take place? Is the small bank going to be there even at all? Are they going to survive? What about a regional bank, are they going to be merging and forming super, you know, super large banks? How's the landscape going to take place? And then I thought, what is it that my clients and is the Florida market were I'm housed, where is that going to be?

When I look at a global company that's focused on international trade and I look at the Florida market and I see how the Florida market is emerging from this last economic slump to say we need to capture our piece of the global market, we have port systems, we have a quality of life, we have airport structure, we have infrastructure and technology, biomedical, we have phenomenal schools in the state - how are we going to capitalize on what we have, a good workforce - because we have a lot of people who need to go to work in Florida - and use that for a longer economic window of growth?

In my opinion, when I was going to go to go market with a new company, it was clearly one that had relevancy to the economic driver that Florida needs and when that matched up for me, it was totally apparent that I was going to go to work for a bank that was unique, coming into the market, had the strength and the stability but the vitality that was going to carry them forward for the next 10 years.

Peter: Adam, when you first spoke with Susan about disposition, did you think to yourself, "Wow, this is the candidate right here. I just spoke to her. Now, what I need to do is present her to my client at Sabadell and convince them that this is really the person that they need to hire?

Adam: My first initial take and impression of Susan was "Wow." This- and so she say self-proclaimed type A that you can even pick up in your first interactions with her but absolutely very impressive. I mean, again, we researched and we determined through our efforts in terms of tangibles and skill set, Susan appeared to be very qualified on paper. And speaking with her, personally, if you ever have the opportunity to meet Susan, I think her intangible attributes even outweigh her skill set on paper and I think that's where kind of that impressive factor sets in.

So to answer your question, yes, we had a shortlist of candidates that Sabadell United Bank was scheduled to meet with. In my opinion, based upon, weighing in those intangibles, the culture fit and then the challenge is, well, I mean you look at, what motivates Susan? What excites her? You know, she's very well entrenched in network within her community. She's very in-tuned with what's going on with the larger banks and regional banks, and then you know. So here's this bank that she's never heard of and this challenge and this opportunity, it was really interesting to see, once all these components and conversations took place, more so, my concern was, where's Susan's interest going to align?

Peter: So we have a highly qualified candidate that seems to be a really perfect fit for this position however there's culture that has to align in a role like this. So how soon once you met with the people at this institution did you realize that there was a cultural fit and this could be a great role for you?

Susan: You know I will tell you, the first engagement was what I'll call in my backyard and it perked my interest but I was a bit cautious because I wasn't certain. Here we have a male dominated organization and at the time they had no female executives on their team, it was out in Miami, would there be a cultural fit just with that dynamic and would there be communication issues, logistics, they had never moved outside of their South Florida region, how was that going to make the connection?

So shortly after that first meeting I was invited to come to Miami and visit the rest of the leadership team' the CEO of the company, the chairman of the board, a long time board member who had founded the company and what I found was energy. Now I have a lot of energy and that is one of the things I pride myself in bringing to a work place is enthusiasm and mobilizing a team through what I'll call a process of change. That's one of the things that I find just energizing and it really is probably my passion.

When I saw that that's where the leadership was, that they knew what it was going to take to move the organization forward and not just "Hey this is the way it's always been so we want to keep that." They were not compressing at all. They were blowing the top off this company and they were saying we want to bring in people who can help get us there and I spoke with so many folks that day that were on the executive team and one after another aligned.

So it wasn't a team that had disconnects amongst its leadership. Everyone was saying the same thing. They had bought into where they needed to take the company as a collective team and they had gone out and looked for someone who would complement that enthusiasm for change, not stifle it. So when I saw that it was a reaffirmation that Adam had done a good job.

Peter: Adam initial meeting obviously we've got a couple of excited people on both sides of this equation. From your perspective how do you then manage the process forward?

Adam: So again we've talked about, in my profession, finding that balance. You're working with both sides so I wanted to be transparent and open. Of course with Susan in terms of where they were right now in their decision making process, many collective feedback and thoughts that I could of course provide her following the meetings. Additionally it's equally important to really see where Susan was following some of those discussions and I say anytime you walk in to an organization and you meet folks you get a feel. There's a feel. It's sometimes something you can't describe but sometimes things they feel right or you feel "Gosh, I belong here. This is the type of organization I fit in." Aside of course of what you think individually.

So in moving forward, obviously, things such as compensation, you think of what are our time lines here, what are our objectives, are Susan's initiative within the first six months maybe in line with what Sabadell's trying to accomplish as well in their growth strategy. We want to see that everybody's on the same page. Hopefully there's mutual interest and then in addition to that hopefully we have all of our data and our information around logistics and compensation and things of that nature in place as well.

Peter: Susan, how long did this whole process take once you first met with the executives of Sabadell?

Susan: I think it was as short as 3 weeks.

Peter: Really?

Susan: You know what? If I think back it would have been inside of a month and in that respect, I will tell you that probably sold me as much as anything because when you know that it's decision that can be made where people are willing to collaborate quickly, I mean we were doing this over a holiday, I believe it was early December, we were wrapping up towards the end of the month, I think I actually was contacted with an offer during the Christmas holiday and I started to work on January 2nd so it was a rapid process. It sold me on the concept that the company was nimble. And I think that's as key as anything.

I've been on the other side of that desk so it's "Make sure you're going to hire the right person," but if you go at it with "We have our information, we've done our research, we have validated the research, we have dug in deeper and gotten comfortable with all of the cultural shift and we've vetted the issue, now let's just make that offer. If you can sense that that's the alignment with your candidate and on the frontend, salary and those discussions typically shouldn't be a deal breaker because you've gone in on the front end with your homework so everybody knows throughout the process, if you're discussing a position, what that range should look like, so it was just a matter of "Let's wrap this up," and there are some incidentals obviously that everybody has to kind of go back and forth and make sure you're validating, but really it, for me, demonstrated again that this company was nimble, they had people in charge who could make a decision at certain levels, they had delegated or put people in accountable roles that were decision-making roles that could have make those offers in the absence of somebody who's on vacation, if you will, or whatever. So it worked out well. Well, it was a quick and right decision.

Peter: One last question for you, and I really appreciate your time this afternoon, based on this whole experience that you have gone through with all of these different financial institutions and the way they approached you, the way they made offers to you, what recommendations or suggestions would you like to share for especially the internal executive recruiters out there who are out there trying to capture the interest of folks such as yourself?

Susan: I think first of all it's contacting people that you don't necessarily know are going to be interested. It's knowing the candidates in the market whether they're employed someplace or they're unemployed. Looking at do we have a library of executives that we keep track of, that we know upfront and have validated what their skill sets? That's how I would obviously approach it is to keep my inventory alive and when I do make those touches and someone is ready for more conversation be prepared with a lot of information. Busy executives don't have time to do an external focus particularly if they're employed somewhere else. They're focused on their own company.

So I think that's very key. I think the balancing act in understanding where the transparency with the employer and the recruiter needs to take place I think that's critical and then making certain that the communication touch points are timely and the best reflection of your customers.

Peter: Well again thank you so much both of you for taking time this week with us today on TotalPicture Radio. We've been speaking with Susan Blackburn who is a regional executive with Sabadell United Bank and with Adam Lloyd who is the president of Weber Kerr Associates, a retained executive search firm who placed Susan in her current role.

This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in to TotalPicture Radio.

You've been listening to the official IACPR Spring Global Conference 2013 podcast series produced by TotalPicture Radio in association with Riviera Advisors. You'll find a complete transcript of this interview in the Talent Acquisition Channel at totalpicture.com and a complete library of in dept interviews featuring talent acquisition and HR leaders in the newsroom and events link on rivieraadvisors.com. Take a moment to visit Riviera Advisors and learn what makes them different and please connect with Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in.

Soren Kaplan, IACPR Keynote Speaker


Leapfrogging - Creating a Breakthrough Culture

Published on March 05 2013
Soren Kaplan Talent Acquisition Interview on TotalPicture RadioSoren Kaplan

HR leaders and executive recruiters are trained to avoid risk and don't like surprises. Why should they embrace Soren Kaplan's concept of "Leapfrogging?"

Soren Kaplan, keynote presenter at the IACPR Spring Global Conference, is Managing Principal, Innovation Point, the author of Leapfrogging and the founder of the Leapfrogging Alliance, where he advises start-ups and also consults Cisco, Colgate, Disney, Medtronic, Visa, and others. He led the internal strategy group at HP and is an adjunct professor in the Imagineering Academy at NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences in The Netherlands.

Leapfrogging connects new research, unconventional strategies and practical tools for navigating the seemingly "messy" process of achieving business breakthroughs. The book draws upon Soren Kaplan's twenty years of hands-on experience, research studies from universities around the world, and case examples from global companies, start-ups, and nonprofits - including Gatorade, Intuit, OpenTable, Philips, Four Seasons, Colgate-Palmolive, Kimberly-Clark, Etsy, Apple, Google, and many other smaller firms. He was interviewed by Peter Clayton in Philadelphia at the IACPR Spring Global Conference.

Leapfrogging gives HR and recruiting leaders the tools to do exactly what they're taught to avoid: embrace uncertainty and invite surprises. Soren shows how anyone can harness the power of surprise and demonstrates that...

Soren Kaplan - TotalPicture Radio Transcript

Reimagining, reinventing, meeting today's talent challenges. Welcome to Philadelphia and the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013. This is Peter Clayton reporting. TotalPicture Radio's official coverage here at the IACPR Conference is brought to you in partnership with Riviera Advisors, a premier global human resources consulting firm specialized in helping organizations develop stronger, internal recruiting and staffing capabilities. Visit rivieraadvisors.com for a wealth of resources focused on corporate talent acquisition issues and solutions.

Hi, this is Peter Clayton reporting from the beautiful Rittenhouse Hotel here in Philadelphia. We are at the IACPR, the International Association for Corporate and Professional Recruitment Spring Global Conference 2013 and I'm sitting down with Soren Kaplan who gave the keynote address here this morning. He is the author of Leapfrogging and Managing Principal at Innovation Point where he works with organizations including Visa, Disney, Colgate-Palmolive, Metronics, Philips, PepsiCo and numerous other global firms.

Soren, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today.

Soren: It's a pleasure, Peter. Good to be here.

Peter: So right after your session, there was a session on innovation which actually had several of your clients in there, and they left up one of your slides on Leap Competencies which I want to talk about in a few minutes. First of all, your book called Leapfrogging, I think it would probably be helpful to our listeners if you would define for us what leapfrogging actually means.

Soren: The whole field of innovation has boomed and blossomed and what I wanted to do is really just write about innovation from the perspective of a term that it would apply to anyone not just products and services, but if you want to innovate or take things to the next level, you want to leapfrog to the next big thing whether you're in an HR department or you're in a finance department or you're going after product services. I wanted to create a term that essentially anyone can understand around creating the next big thing.

Peter: A lot of what this leapfrogging has to do with and a lot of about what you write about in your book is the element of surprise. From my experience most folks in HR and recruiting get paid to make sure there are no surprises. So how does this concept of leapfrogging and your ideas around surprises being really great for business and great for innovation mesh with an HR or recruiting leader?

Soren: First, you're absolutely right, and part of my research I went on to Amazon, did a search for management books with surprise in their titles; 100% of them are about how to avoid, minimize or prevent the phenomena from occurring. Business hates surprises, point #1.

Point #2 is that if we want to go after new territory, whether we're going to reinvent one of our HR department or whether we're going to go after a new market, the fact is if we're blazing new trails we've got to live with a little uncertainty. Uncertainty, the heart and the essence of uncertainty is surprises. Good things are going to happen we can't anticipate and bad things will happen we can't anticipate and we have to be ready for them. So surprise really is about dealing with uncertainty which is everyone's business today in today's environment.

Peter: Yeah, that certainly is true, and you kind of went into the definition of what a business breakthrough really means and Soren, that's one of the terms du jour in Corporate America like innovation. Everybody's talking about business breakthroughs, but what does that really mean and how do you really identify when there is a breakthrough?

Soren: To me there's different levels of breakthrough also, but a breakthrough to me is something that really challenges assumptions and makes you kind of think. The fun example that I gave in the meeting was pop rocks. When I was a kid I tried pop rocks and I thought to myself "I didn't know candy could do that." And so whether it's the things that we hear about Cirque de Soleil, iPads, whatever, they challenge our assumptions about what we think is possible.

Now you can look at that on a small scale if you're just in the HR department and you're going to kind of reinvent how you do something, or you can look at it on a whole scale business model standpoint and you want to surprise the market. The notion about breakthroughs is that - and your comment about surprise - in order to do things that surprise others in a positive way, that challenge assumptions and add value, we've got to go through a process where we experience and tap into surprise ourselves so we can get to the point where we know what we want to do to surprise the market.

Peter: One of the examples you gave in your presentation around breakthrough which I found really interesting and which you wrote about in your book, is DuPont and the example you gave really came out of the legal department and you really don't think about lawyers doing much around breakthrough. Can you tell us about that?

Soren: I wanted to find an example of a breakthrough in a big company that might be the least likely place you'd look. So a legal department in a company like DuPont, their legal department, their chief legal officer, Thomas Sager, reinvented the legal department. They had had in the late 1990s about over 300 law firms working on their dime. They essentially reinvented the whole legal model for a corporate legal department. They scaled it back down to about 37 firms, I believe.

What they did is they started instead of incenting their attorneys by paying them by the 6 minute increment like most attorneys are, they decided to create an incentive system so that they would resolve cases faster and more efficiently than before and that became the metric. So they completely changed the business model. They also decided to shift how they look at lawsuits. Rather than looking at them as something to fight, they decided let's look at lawsuits as giving us competitive and market intelligence to say well maybe there's ways in which we can learn from these lawsuits and improve our businesses and maybe it's cheaper and more effective to actually change ourselves rather than fight the lawsuit.

The last thing they did, which I think is admirable and critical in today's environment, is they incorporated a value for diversity in their own legal department because they want their legal department to reflect the diversity of the markets in the world they're in and then they've cascaded those values and those requirements for diversity amongst the law firms that they work with as well so that they can reflect the diversity in terms of the kind of representation that they provide.

Peter: In that example, I would assume that that individual had to do first was get buy in from the C-suite to go ahead and implement this very radical change that you just told us about. I think that is so true, especially with large corporations which I know you do a lot of consulting with; if the C-suite doesn't buy it, it's not going to happen.

Soren: The challenge with a lot of these "breakthroughs" is that - and I talked about this in the presentation - a lot of times there isn't data that tells us what to do. We can't basically say "Look at the data, we need to do this." We might know that there's a problem or there's an opportunity, but it's really in finding the balance between our gut instinct about what we believe we need to do to add value to the market, to our customers, to ourselves, to our organizations and the data that supports that. So it's this balancing of data and intuition and you need to communicate that to the C-suite and others in a way that lays out the business case but also the compelling view of where this could go and why you need to really create a transformational change.

Peter: One of the audience members asked I thought what was a really great question in that after your presentation she got up and she said "Tell us, Soren, about the companies that aren't part of your slide presentation here, the ones that didn't follow your recommendations, the ones that aren't doing breakthrough work, the ones that you went in and did consulting with and left them and hit yourself in the head in going "Oh man. What's going on here?" How does that translate in the real world out there where there are companies that just aren't Kodak.

Soren: Yeah I get it. I'm going to oversimplify this and basically say and my answer included this in the session; in order to get innovation you need either to give people time or you need to give people resources. You look at some of the great examples from the past, 3M at one point was a very innovative company and they were known for giving people a day a week to innovate in whatever area they wanted to. That has been adopted by other companies like Google.

The companies when I walk away and I think they're really going to have a hard time innovating is when every one's heads down focused on quarterly numbers, they don't give anyone time to think about adjacent markets or the future, that the metrics and rewards are so driving towards short term thinking that there's no room to innovate. All it takes is a leader of a team or a leader of a business unit ideally or the CEO to loosen up the reigns a little bit and recognize "Yeah we have to deliver on today's results but we also need to foster this kind of thinking and we're going to give people a little time and we might set aside a little resource to reward people or to separate out an organization that can start to experiment a little bit."

I'm over simplifying it but when you look at process, structure, metrics, rewards - those things, when none of them are in place, then that's going to be a big challenge.

Peter: So many companies today are just driven by the quarterly results and Wall Street expects them to hit the numbers and if they don't hit the numbers, their stock tanks.

Soren: I totally agree with what you said, and there are things that you can still do to stir things up. For example, the New York Times, an icon in the traditional publishing business, they've now opened up their corporate office to start media start ups that are doing innovative things, so that they could just kind of bring the outside in and cross fertilize some of the ideas and shake things up a little bit. It's doing "simple" things like that that can really help to start to change the culture.

Peter: I want to go back to innovation for a second, fresh in my mind we just go out of this session, you had a slide from the Wall Street Journal which showed the number of times that corporations had used the word innovation over 33,000 time and how many of those companies are really innovating.

Soren: I think that that's indicative of the environment.

Peter: The corporate buzzword du jour.

Soren: That's exactly right and it's too bad because innovation has become a buzzword but it's still so important for companies but it's become watered down. So the slide I showed, showed that over 33,000 times in 2012 the word innovation showed up in the Fortune 500 annual reports. Also, that same slide showed that in a 90-day period last year, over 250 books were written with the word innovation in their titles and there's never before been so many resources on innovation.

The challenge that we have is to really make the topic meaningful for organizations when there's just so much buzzwords out there. You'd think we'd all have it nailed because there's so much resource out there, but in actuality I think it's more confusing than ever.

Peter: One of the things you did in writing this book, which I think is really cool, you moved yourself and your entire family to Paris for a year to write this book. What was the motivation behind that?

Soren: The first motivation was I traveled the world with a lot of global companies; I wanted to give my family, my two daughters who were 9 and 11 at the time, a cultural experience outside the US. That was one goal. We put them into public school and they didn't speak any French. So it was a marvelous struggle and an illustration of the adaptation of kids who they adapted pretty quick and spoke the language after the first year.

But the other thing is I wanted to write my book and I felt like I needed to push my own comfort zone, push the comfort zone of my family in order to see my own work in history and knowledge from a different lens, in a different perspective, and that experience definitely helped to do that. I stumbled into a little café, which out of 35,000 bistros and cafes is ranked the number one coffee spot in Paris, all of the things they're doing around innovation really inspired me and they became a focal point, actually, of my book and the theme of surprise percolated, so to speak, out of me after stumbling in that little café.

Peter: At one point in your career you led the internal strategy and innovation group at Hewlett Packard, a great storied company who if Meg Whitman called you up today, what would you tell her?

Soren: When I was at HP in the late 1990s, HP had been an icon in innovation. At the same time, HP was also moving to a spot where it was a $40 billion a year company, over 100,000 employees and the growth had stalled. We actually called it the growth stall. How do you grow that 10% a year when you're already a $40 billion a year company? The challenge that HP had at the time is that we would only fund a new business if we could prove it would be a billion dollar business in three years, and that notion of experimentation had started to fade even then.

What would I say? There were some real values that HP had called the HP Way that pretty much has started to disappear in that company. I think that there's some elements of it around really being close to the customer, around this collaborative dimension that I think that they could probably get back and tie back in to the heritage of where that company came from to really start doing some things that foster innovation in a different way.

Peter: You mentioned this in your presentation, it took Apple 3 years to develop the iPhone. HP was in the tablet business for 10 minutes. To your point, some of these things just take time to get out there to develop and to get market adaptation. It doesn't happen overnight.

Soren: I shared that Apple experience because three years in a tech world is an eternity.

Peter: It is, absolutely.

Soren: When I was at HP we told the story inside. The LaserJet took 11 years to get to market, and there was a tolerance at that time at HP to steward things along and to cultivate them and to recognize that a big disruptive innovation might not happen overnight. I think it's challenging in today's environment because in some internet mobile space it is happening relatively quickly overnight, but I think that that's... I don't know that that's necessarily the rule. I think that there are examples of that but in the end, we need to be able to be tolerant of things taking a little bit longer than overnight.

Peter: From your perspective is corporate entrepreneurship an oxymoron, or does it really exist?

Soren: I definitely think yeah, it does exist. Some of the examples that I shared today are examples of that. I think that the question is how do we either find the individuals who are already doing it because that's who they are, they happen to work in a big company and not be outside being an entrepreneur. They're inside trying to make a difference, identify those folks and really give them more resources, tools and visibility and then be able to create the kind of environment that allows for that little extra time, that little extra motivation, resource recognition, doesn't have to be financial so that others can recognize 'you know what, leapfrogging, doing things radically different to kind of add value and challenge assumptions, anyone can do it in no matter what role they're in.'

Peter: You've developed a set of what you call leapfrogging tools in your book. Can you describe what some of those are for us?

Soren: What I try to do is distill down the process of what does it mean to create a breakthrough and there are times in which it's exciting and there are times in which I call it the failure zone. You've got to push through the process or you're going to give up and you'll never succeed. The model is called leaps and what basically leaps is it's a step by step process, although I wouldn't say it's step by step. It's really iterative, in which you go through the path from listening to yourself in order to figure out the value you want to create in the world. That's where data won't necessarily tell you to do it. You have to listen to the value you want to create for yourself and for the market.

The E is explore, go out there in the market and talk to customers and talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to.

A is Act which is take small steps again and again. So you might fail but that's okay. It's all part of the learning process.

P is persist which is about failure. It's like taking the surprise out of failure.

Seize, the journey is the destination. The last step is really recognizing you've got to be humble with all of this. You've got to go through a process where if you're going to learn about yourself, you're going to challenge your assumptions, you shouldn't think you have the right answer because if you do, you're probably going to be wrong.

So it's really about those dimensions and going through those in an iterative way so that you can learn and adapt to whatever breakthrough you're trying to create.

Peter: I think one of the main reasons that they asked you to speak here at the IACPR Conference is because of this Leaps competencies that you've developed. As you know, the recruiting industry is going through massive transformations and I think that having some kind of a structure like what you've developed is only going to help them because they do need some breakthroughs. They need to push the boundaries out there. They can't operate their business the way they have for the last 15 or 20 years and survive. When you go in and talk to HR and recruiting departments what is the biggest concern that you see and what of your book, of these leapfrogging takeaways is most useful in a recruiting or an HR environment?

Soren: I think one thing that's in a lot of the people's mind is the retiring baby boomers. That's a big kind of talent suck.

Peter: We're never going to retire.

Soren: I think in today's financial environment no one may retire ever.

I think that from an HR standpoint, I get called in a lot of times to do leadership development on innovation and when I come in, a lot of times I'm with cross functional teams that might be from R&D, marketing, strategy, product development, HR, legal, finance. A lot of times what happens is I get people coming up to me from HR, finance, legal and they say "How does innovation apply to us? Innovation is for marketing or it's for product development."

Peter: Right. Exactly.

Soren: I think that it's HR's job and overall to help understand what kind of environment do you need to create in the company culturally so that everyone sees some element of innovation applying to their job and then demystify this glut of information out there on innovation and say "Here's what we believe we need to do in the world to make a difference and if we want to achieve these kinds of things for our customers, for the market to benefit the world maybe from a triple bottom line perspective we need to do things differently."

That's what innovation is. You don't have to call it innovation. You have to call it adding value to the world, adding value to the company. That's really at the essence what innovation is, and I think we're getting caught up with the buzzword innovation.

Peter: One thing that I didn't know is how YouTube started.

Soren: That's a great question. I gave at the end of my presentation a little innovation quiz and I showed a number of different companies, including YouTube. YouTube started out as a dating website. The idea was somebody might put a who wanted a date, put up a video of yourself kind of saying here's who I am, here's who I am interested in and someone else might see it, post another video of themselves and trying to make this social connection. Didn't exactly work out that way but obviously YouTube did work out when they opened it up and broadened it out.

Peter: Yeah it sure did. Soren, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us today on TotalPicture Radio.

Soren: Thank you Peter. It's been great to be here.

Peter: Thank you.

You've been listening to the official IACPR Spring Global Conference 2013 podcast series produced by TotalPicture Radio in association with Riviera Advisors. You'll find a complete transcript of this interview in the Talent Acquisition Channel at totalpictureradio.com and a complete library of in-depth interviews featuring talent acquisition and HR leaders in the newsroom and events link on rivieraadvisors.com. Take a moment to visit Riviera Advisors and learn what makes them different, and please connect with Riviera Advisors and TotalPicture Radio on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for tuning in.


Quality of Hire - How to Make Better Talent Decisions


A conversation with Yves Lermusi, CEO and Founder of Checkster

Published on November 26 2012
Yves LermusiYves Lermusi

"About 50% of the hires that are made are not great."

How do you define quality when it comes to recruiting and hiring? That was the topic of discussion at the Recruting Trends Conference in Las Vegas, featuring panelists Jason Buss, VP, Global Talent Management at Akraya; Kay Creighton, Cox Communications Director of HR; and Jason Pistulka, Director Technology Recruiting and Corporate College Relations at Asurion; moderated by our guest, Yves Lermusi CEO and founder of Checkster.

How to uncover quality in the hiring process is the focus of this podcast.

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is that final four - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Yves Lermusi TotalPicture Radio Interview Transcript

Welcome to Talent Decisions, a monthly podcast featuring leading practitioners within talent acquisition. The focus of this program is that final four - the final four candidates you are considering to fill a critical position within your organization. If you are a hiring manager struggling to ensure you make the right call or a talent acquisition department leader who wants to be more strategic, this program is for you.

Talent Decisions is brought to you by Checkster, the leading talent decision platform leveraging collective intelligence to upgrade talent processes including interviewing, reference checking and 360 quality feedback. Checkster believes everyone deserves a productive and fulfilling career and that starts with the right talent decision. To learn more about Checkster, visit Checkster on the web at checkster.com.

Hi. This is Peter Clayton reporting from Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada. We are at the Recruiting Trends Conference delighted to have back on the show Yves Lermusi; it's been a long time since you've actually been on TotalPicture Radio. Yves is the founder and CEO of Checkster and this is a Talent Decisions Channel interview. Yves actually moderated a session called Quality of Hire: How to Make Better Talent Decisions.

Yves, welcome back to TotalPicture Radio.

Yves: Thank you Peter, a pleasure to be here.

Peter: How do you define quality when it comes to recruiting and hiring?

Yves: Great and loaded question to start with.

Peter: Yes it is. Right off of one of your slides, by the way!

Yves: Quality is definitely one of the most strategic metric that recruiting departments and talent acquisition departments are trying to achieve. The problem has been in the last couple of years, it remains kind of an obscure metric. Everyone speaks about it but nobody really measures it.

So when you ask people, and that's what we asked during the panel, how do you define quality, most organizations are looking at retention, performance review ranking after 12 months. Those are what I would say probably most of the organizations are looking at.

However what we see is that organizations that are performing the best need to have feedback sooner. So obviously retention is after a long period of time. The performance review is after a year. One of the quote I often mention is in the great research from Good to Great from Jim Collins about 10 years ago, what he saw is that great companies are different from good companies not by the number of mis-hire they're doing, but by the way to quickly respond to the bad hire that they made.

So having a measure of quality that can be faster than something that you will have literally a year after is the key things to make sure that organizations can be great.

So in order to achieve that and to continue to answer your question about what is quality is that you have to have metrics that can be monitored sooner after the hire.

What we typically recommend to our customers at Checkster in general we just say you know what, perform a kind of 360 post hire that can be 30, 60, 90, 180 days but depending on the type of positions, where you can have feedback not only from the hiring managers because they're often biased, but from people that are either one level up or directly working with those individuals. That will give you a way to assess their quality. It could help them not only to onboard better because it's not a performance-link review, but it's a way to measure quality.

So that's one way and obviously we have more detailed metrics on what to keep to have one single number, etc., but that's in a nutshell, the way to measure quality more than just by the traditional retention and performance metrics.

Peter: You had three very interesting people on your panel today. One is Kay Creighton who is the Director of Human Resources with Cox Communications which obviously is a very large and well-known company and well-known brand. You also had Jason Pistulka who has been on TotalPicture Radio in the Talent Decisions Channel and a very interesting guy, works for a company called Asurion which is one of those big companies that you've never heard of because a lot of what they're doing is in the background for other organizations. You also had Jason Buss who is in a new role who is the VP of Talent Management for Akraya Staffing Firm.

Here are three quite different approaches to recruiting. All of these - obviously they're trying to make quality hires. So what differentiates what they're doing at Cox Communications from say what they're doing at Asurion as far as recruiting?

Yves: I would even push the question further because it's a great distinction to make. I would say even within these own organizations there are differences about what quality is. We have four pillars of quality that we've been looking at and typically most individual when they think about quality they will think about knowledge, skills, abilities. They just say that is what a quality individual. That's what typically the assessments are after. That's what most of the résumé reviews are after, as well as experience which is another dimension.

However, for instance, for Cox Communications call center the quality may be something else like retention, meaning fit within the organization because obviously it takes some effort to train those people and even if they churn every year or more than that it starts to be very expensive. So it will depend from one type of position to another. One additional elements you see where you have the experience, the knowledge, abilities and skills, you do have also the motivation. That could be very important because you can have people that are very skilled, that have the right experience, that will fit into the culture but if they don't want to perform or they don't have the fire in the belly like you're trying to seek you won't have the four quality.

So to answer your questions more directly, if you have that framework with those four dimensions it helps you to make the differences of what is important from one organization versus the other. I would say even more specifically, what type of positions within each organization. So that's often a framework that we help organizations to build in order to define and essentially to screen according to that framework to increase the quality.

Peter: I'd like to step back just a little bit and have you describe to our audience what's really changed in recruiting over the last 15 years.

Yves: Great question, and I actually started the panel with that in saying 'look, what we've seen - when I started in this industry the big trend was online job boards.' It was the fact that the industry overall was moving online, and it was at that time where I actually started a company. It was more of a consulting and research organization that was called iLogos and we were monitoring Fortune 500's corporate websites who had career website on their Fortune 500.

In 1997-98, which was the first time we monitored that, it was like less than 30%. In like three years it has just shifted to most of the Fortune 500 had a career website. The big shift at that time was essentially that the implications instead of becoming on paper, traditionally on paper, became online. So consequently the volume just exploded. And that's at the time where I actually joined Taleo. I was part of the first executive team there, which was a great solutions for those type of problems, essentially applying supply chain principles to streamline this huge volume and this new process through a software as a service solution.

Peter: Taleo was one of the very first of the applicant tracking systems that was integrated out there.

Yves: That's correct and now they're part of Oracle, etc. But that was essentially the first big response to the fact that application was done online versus to be done with traditional snail mail.

The big things that happened more recently is I would say the social network impact is that instead of having to be a farmer where you post your requirements, you can start to be more of a hunter and start to find people.

You see hundreds of millions of people online in profiles over a billion with Facebook right now. So the ability to find everyone and anyone is there. So consequently what we see and strategically for organization, is that the ability to find people will become and will be more and more commoditized.

So if you are a strategic leader right now in talent management or talent acquisitions, the big differentiations that you will be able to reach is not on the sourcing site. It is still very important and we don't diminish that. But now that you can reach everyone and anyone what you need to be able to do is to convince those people that you find that your organization is a viable choice. So all your value propositions, your marketing, your branding is critically important.

I have an article that we may be linking in the resource for this interview where I have a 2x2 metrics just saying you need to be good at sourcing people but more from a branding perspective to create a great pool of talent. That's number one.

However, if you are good at having a great shortlist of talent but you cannot essentially get to the one that is the best, make the best talent decisions, you will fail in the long term. And that's the second dimension of this 2x2 where you need to be great at selection as well. So organizations looking forward are less about sourcing; it will be way more about branding and about selection. Those are the two dimensions that you need to be extremely good at. Checkster as an organization we just say let's tackle the selection side and that's where we spend most of our time.

Peter: So your recent article in recruiting trends is entitled 'Why LinkedIn is Changing Everything' and does that really have to do with this whole sourcing idea that now you can go on to LinkedIn and virtually every professional has a profile on LinkedIn. So sourcing has really become a lot easier.

Yves: That's correct. I often give the example, we are based in the San Francisco Bay Area and just imagine we need a lawyer that is specialized in patents in the telecommunications industry. I will find, let's say, the 20 lawyers that are qualified for my job. The next thing and relatively easily you see -is something and it'll become easier and easier - the next thing that you have is can I convince those 20 to be interested in my company.

Let's assume that you can interest 10 of them. The next thing you will say among those 10 who do I really want? And that's the core thing.

So yes, it's changing definitely the way companies are sourcing, but more importantly, is that if you're good at sourcing that won't be good enough. You will have something that you will need to be able to interest those people and after that making sure that you are taking the person that is the most appropriate for your job.

Peter: One of the insights that came out of your session today which I found really interesting and I haven't quite heard this from this perspective before and all of your panelists said the same thing is everyone thinks they're a great interviewer, whether they're a recruiter, whether they're a hiring manager - they all think that they can pick up on nuances and stuff in a candidate and really figure out whether they're a good hire or not. I thought that was pretty fascinating and the fact of the matter is not everybody is a good interviewer.

Yves: Well exactly and the stats speak for themselves. We know that about 50% of the hires that are made are not great. So you have a strike rate that you see is not as good as you think it would be. So when you look at the results it's a little bit humbling. So the questions we really ask at Checkster is how and what can we do to improve the quality, to improve your batting average essentially. So of course all organizations - and that's what came out of the panel are interviewing - you need to be better at this.

The other thing that we see as well as an easier than you think approach is asking people with who they worked, how do they perform. Because at the end of the day it's the real work experience that is the best predictor. You see we often say past behaviors are the best predictor of future behaviors. The difficulty for someone that you try to hire is how can I access this past behavior and typically historically it has been done trying to ask people around, etc.

Now with the web, you can scale that and you see that's one of the solutions that we have been pushing at Checkster because we say you know what, there is gold there. If you can access essentially the people with who they worked before, ask them how they performed it's a low hanging fruit that you can get the feedback that you want. How do you call that is kind of the reference check 2.0. It's not the traditional one because it doesn't work anymore and people have often a hard time to just say "Well, I don't think it will work." Until they try it. And that's what is really interesting.

So in terms of advising organizations right now to improve their quality is for sure go above the impressions that you are a great interviewer and making sure that you are really diligent at it but also doing the low hanging fruit like you see checking peers with who they work and you can automate that online and that gives you in the start give you a pretty good picture of the individual.

If you have more appetite you can go with assessments. You can do a number of other things. It's the first step in order to be more diligent and more scientific about being better at increasing the quality.

Peter: It seems like a lot of people in the audience and you asked the question of the audience how many of you are still using the telephone to do reference checking and there were a few hands that went up and so there are some recruiters out there who think that there is absolutely no value in reference checking and have just abandoned doing it at all because all they're getting is the candidates friends basically and the cost and time involved in doing telephone reference checking.

Yves: That's correct, and I think maybe the name should be different. It is not the traditional reference checking that you used to do over the phone. What it is really is asking in like a Trip Advisor way what was your experience with this individual. So it's an online interaction where people can be more candid and where you get way more insights.

The key thing is for, especially for a leader that have strong and long experience where they just say 'You know what, that's one of the practice that I don't believe will reap fruit.' You can try it very easily. It's something that is there. If I was today a leader of a talent acquisition organizations today, I would say what are the quick hits that I could make in order to essentially make sure that my quality improved and that I can measure quality. There are a couple of them.

Like the interview, one of the recommendations that came from the panel was have two interviewers instead of one. Simple to implement. Yes, it takes a little bit more resources but if you have two interviewers interviewing one candidate, you will kill biases, you will be more diligent because it's difficult to take note at the same time and thinking of the next questions and listening to the individual, that's one easy to implement.

The other easy one is to implement a kind of a peer rating online that we do and actually we receive lots of very positive feedback from our customers and a couple of them are in this channel and you can listen to them.

Peter: Yeah, and it really is... since I've started doing the talent decisions interviews with your clients, I'm really fascinated with the number of responses they get from this reference checking tool and not just the number of responses, but the number of people that their candidates put into the reference checking tool for them to go out and do a reference check. Also, they're amazed at the speed that these online submissions get returned to them.

Yves: Let me give you one anecdote because that's probably speaks more for itself that was shared during the panel here is that one of the individuals shared the fact that they were hiring for a senior position. The individual entered 25 of their peers on Sunday evening. Forty-eight hours after the 25 respondents and they had a vetted candidate with 25 people who had worked with them before.

When was the last time you took the time to speak to 25 people, get their objective confidential feedback in order to vet a candidate. You never do it. Am I saying that everyone is putting 25 easy references or people with who they worked? No. But on average we get six. These customers specifically get closer to 10. You see they are more demanding. It's because a lot of customers are still shy.

People online now have many friends, many connections. They can invite way more people. It is easy and when you do that it's not only your best friends that you can train to only say good things. You start to have a pretty good view of who they are. So I would advise organizations when they look at what can we do to increase quality to just take one or two initiatives; these being one of them, and they can try it very easily and to see the results that they get.

So the limit is counterintuitive. For a leader that has been there for 20 years in the agency "You know what, I've done that for 20 years. I've decided to stop speaking to references." That's why we shouldn't even call it references. It's something else. It's maybe a social rating type of approach and it doesn't work you may say or she may say until they try and when they try and Jason shared that during the panel they just say they were a little forced to do it because of the hiring managers and now they just say it's one of there best practice in order to do this and they would never -

You shared with another person outside of the panel that if they had to decide between their applicant tracking system and Checkster, they will get rid of the applicant tracking system first, which was the first time I heard that. That's very surprising, but that's the level of insight that you would get.

Peter: Of course they're insisting that those references that the candidate put in there are former employers and direct reports and managers and peers. So it's not just their friends that they're throwing into this thing, right?

Yves: That's correct, and there is a number of level of controls that you may have, etc. So it is a simple approach to do that on the pre-hire side. What we have seen as well that works well is to use the same methodology for interview debrief. So you have a number of interviewers that typically will sit at the table and they will just say 'we interview Peter Clayton and what do you think of him?' And what we have seen often in the interview debrief either it's not done or when it's done there is someone that is overpowering and is called a social influence. We have a white paper about that and there are academic research showing that those decisions are essentially biased towards one directions and people feel more comfortable even though it's actually less accurate.

So the simple approach that I often recommend is just to say do the like a sticky notes, the yellow sticky notes and ask people to give the feedback, as simple as that, before starting a debrief. If you don't have debrief or if people are distributed, then you can do it. We offer a product that does that as well but you can do it online where it's confidential. You can do that more specifically on the dimensions that are critical for the job. So it's to give another level of consistency in a debriefing process to increase not the interview per se but the debriefing of the interview which is actually very important. Otherwise you send lots of people doing lots of interview and don't capitalize on it.

So that approach of essentially leveraging collective intelligence which mean the collectivity of people that have been interacting with the individual that could be in the job, in the interview, or in the new company to measure quality of hire, 360 for performance promotion, or for reference, or for interview debrief, can be applied at multiple level with the same focus. Make sure that we get the right person and we can direct them accordingly because when you have those feedback hiring managers are actually asking for those.

They may still decide to go with the individual. Nobody's perfect. At least they know what to address and that's what we see with many of our customers. They take the report and they just say "You know what, that's interesting." We know that we need to coach Peter on those 3 things when he or she start the new job. And that's changed a little bit the relationship where the recruiting department start to be really a talent adviser. And that's really what we're after, too; help really those organizations, those talent organizations to be more than résumé pusher because if you're just there to provide résumé your quality, you're probably likely to go through an RPO and to be outsourced because you're not providing the quality required.

Peter: There's an assumption out there, Yves, that reference checking really doesn't work very well because of all the legal restrictions especially with large companies when you go to get a reference check on someone, all you're going to really get back is a verification of dates of employment and perhaps that individual's title, but you know, in the interviews I've done for talent decisions, people are really getting in-depth information on people.

Yves: That's correct. And there is one simple reason why it is is that the traditional approach is that the employer will reach to the references. In the process that Checkster provide it's the candidate that reach out to those references.

Peter: That's a huge difference.

Yves: It's a huge difference. And so consequently, people are more willing to participate, there is no fear of, you see, you cannot participate to those types of things and I would say the feedback we have typically all customers and across the board invite 8 references and 6 participate, and the 2 that typically don't is typically not because they cannot. It's because they were traveling, they were not there, it was closed before, or they had the opportunity to do it, and those type of things.

So it's really something that we don't see but obviously that's the easy objections. You see people say, "Well, my mind is set. I don't want to try something new. Don't bother that." And so it's really what we ask organizations typically is it's pretty easy. You see, in 30 days, you will see if it works for you or not and I ensure you it will. And that's what we have seen again and again.

Peter: One of the questions that came up from the audience in your session today and this is something we hear a lot at recruiting conferences, they asked the panelist, "do you go out and do you use social networks? Do you check a candidate's Facebook? Do you Google them? What is your assessment currently about how social media such as Twitter and Facebook and LinkedIn is being used in the recruiting process and are recruiters Googling the name and seeing what comes up?

Yves: The answer is yes. And if the recruiters are not doing it, your hiring managers do. So a number of research have been done out there and shows that more than 80% of organizations are doing it. We wrote actually a white paper on that just to say you need to have a guideline to at least direct what's happening within your organization.

The questions that is more interesting is that, is it useful? People do it for sure. They want to see if there is any surprises that will come out. Some organizations obviously that have maybe in political campaign or in law enforcements, they have to do it to make sure that there is no embarrassing fact that could come out but for day-to-day things, we ask ourselves at Checkster is there any meaning there that we should essentially include in our process.

What we've seen interestingly is that there is a study that I referred on my blog that show that browsing for about 10 minutes the Facebook profile of individual is more accurate than the personality test that are given out there. So it gives you a good feel of what's the personality of someone by seeing their interest, what they're linking through, what they're saying, etc. So there is some value to do it.

Is it done that way? Maybe not. Is there some potential land mine from a legal perspective and discriminations, etc? Definitely. So that's why you have to be careful and typically HR prefer to ignore it instead of being proactive. But it is done today. It can have some value, and I think as an organization you have to be proactive to have a guideline.

Peter: The reality is, as one of the audience members said that work for a consulting firm, they definitely go on Facebook and see what candidates are putting on their Facebook because it's important to them to know that that candidate uses good judgment because they're going to be out representing that organization. So I think a lot of companies are doing this.

Yves: Exactly. The number I heard is more than 80% are doing it. What is interesting though that came from another mention is was that younger individual start being aware of that, start to have two or several profiles; one that is, you see, for essentially the employers and if they ask because you may have a number of similar names, they ask your profile and you will give that one and then there is the one for your personal use that don't want to disclose and you put high privacy on it.

So it starts to be a practice that may lose its validity because of that approach where people will essentially don't want to disclose their true self out there. So it's a moving target. I think there is a lot of buzz right now. Is it completely validated? No. But people are doing it so you have to be proactive in terms of addressing it.

Peter: I want to return for a minute to how your clients and how companies are using the results they're getting back from these reference checks because it goes far beyond just you have these candidates checks out or it's validated and looks like they would be a good hire. Hiring managers are really fascinated by all of these data.

Yves: That's correct and often there is the question about cultural fit for instance. Cultural fit is - it's hard. It's something that you need to feel, you see how people are going to be. Are they going to be a fit with the organization?

So what we have seen with our customer is that you can first make sure that what are the key dimensions that are critical for your organizations in terms of future success. What you can do is you can then tailor the responses that you're trying to get from peers with who they worked, past bosses or the interviewers or depending on at what stage you're doing it if you do it on peers, then you will ask those questions to individual and then you get more than just "Yes, he's a good programmer," or "He's good at this." You start to have more details.

One example we had a customer they had two candidates that were very strong from a knowledge, skills, abilities point of view and they couldn't decide. So they flew those two people twice to their headquarters, had successive round of interviews. They couldn't decide. Then they were on the Checkster on their past peers and colleagues and one was of an obvious misfit from a cultural standpoint. That's when you get more from it than just the impressions that when you do the interviews and that are some ways where you can get more than just - they know what they're talking about. They're technically a good fit. You will get more. And that's something which is obviously very hard to scale and to reach to all of those people but if you do your homework to put your competency or your values within the framework they can be very, very useful to avoid bad hires.

Peter: I think that also fits right into this whole how do you measure quality, because you get into then to the area of retention and referrals and that kind of thing which don't come up on a traditional reference check at all.

Yves: That's correct and the overall approach that we see - it's a 360 approach that you would do having a tool that - and that's why I'm moving away from references per se and I just say, the ability to ask peers how well you perform can be useful at several levels. It has been used for years and years for development of leaders and that and typically now, what's happening is that you can do it more cheaply because its online, more broadly and you can try to get more feedback for performance improvements post hire but you can do it as well to make better talent decisions pre-hire or you can do it with your current team to know who you're going to promote.

One example was an organization that just said we'll do them now internally. And they had and it was a one HR organization that was very interesting they had to promote someone internally and so they started to do those kind of peer reviews because when you want to promote someone and you're the manager of those people you don't always know how they're perceived by their peers and some people are very good to manage up but not too good to manage down and manage literally and they avoided a couple of bad hires because some of those people are pretty good to manage up and you have the good impressions then when you ask the people they will manage tomorrow, it will be a disaster. And then they've been avoiding some of those mistakes thanks to that simple very little step. But they have to go beyond their comfort zone because they have the impression they know the individual, they've been working for them, and it's only one point of view. It's only one point of view. You need the rest, especially if you will put that person in leadership positions and specifically over those people.

Peter: I think you're bringing up a really important point here given that an awful lot of recruiters really don't get involve in internal hires or promotions at all and they really need to.

Yves: That's correct. What we try to do and really our mission at Checkster is that we want to help organizations make better talent decisions. I think recruitment has been seen for a long time as very transactional. You provide me a number of résumés, you source people, etc. The key thing is as a talent adviser that should be probably a better name than the recruiter, I will sit down with the hiring managers and we'll discuss together in order to say what do you need, what is a performing individual for you?

And the best one, when the hiring manager will them what they need, they will sometime push back and just say, "No, that's not what you need." Actually, ABC is not important but CD is very important and that's how you earn respect because you know the business, you know what's working, etc. But the only way to know how it's working is to make sure you have a follow up in terms of you now who have been performing before. That's the feedback loop of quality of high monitoring. That's the kind of a 360 post hired that you need to do or follow up with those individual.

So that's really the connection there and after that, you come and that's what one of our customers in the financial industry came back. He just say, "We want our recruiters to be really talent adviser but in order to do that we need tools that they can rely on and then they can have meaningful discussions with the hiring managers and that's one of the Checkster report was the tool for them in order to just say "It's not only my impressions or my gut feeling about-" This is based on the feedback of 7-10 people and that's how they see it.

I know you like this candidate but candidate B is actually way superior and so you start to have those discussions. That's how you earn respect because when you think about it, if you are a leader of an organization, a leader of a department, the talent that you will put in the seal panel that was just before us, they all agree: talent decisions is the most important thing for their business.

So you need to make sure you make the right talent decisions. When you think about your own career, the decisions of where you go this is the most important decision of your life. It will define who you are, it will define your salary, it will define your happiness in the day if you like your work or not, etc. Very important decisions. The key thing that we need to make sure is that there is a fit that goes both ends. And that's really the mission of Checkster is just to make sure that we enable and empower organization with the tool to make the fit the best possible not only from a skills point of view but also from a cultural point of view, from a motivation point of view that this is possible because that will drive not only the performance of the organizations but also the satisfaction of the individual.

Peter: One of the overarching themes of the last couple of days here at this conference talking about the proverbial seat at the table, if you want to have that role as a leader in your organization you've got to have metrics. You just can't talk about feelings.

Yves: Exactly. Exactly. And that's why - but at the same time it's not easy when we speak of quality of hire, it's not an easy metric because it's not like-

Peter: Because you have to define and for different roles, there are different ways to define it, right?

Yves: Exactly. And so that's why you need to have an agreement with who they are if they have what I often advise a business leader or a head of talent acquisitions or a talent management, if you have existing business metrics that you have in sales, that you have in call centers, etc., use those ones. You don't need to 360 post hire. It can help if there is a long ramp of time, etc. to get at least a feeling before those come out but that's what you should look for. Just to say, "Okay, in the last five years we hire, let's say hundred sales people, those 20 are at the top performers. What are the differences?"

That's what all the assessments are typically designed and that's what they do but that's what all organizations should do and then just to say, "Okay, repeat that exercise for all the other jobs as well or starting with what is typically called the pivotal jobs which are the most important." But yes you need to do that in order to earn respect and then you will be seen as the strategic players because like, I mean, Jack Welch has probably been one of the most vocal person about that. If you look at sports, you don't speak to accountants about the team. You speak about the scouts and who is managing the team, the talent and the team. That's what will win essentially the tournaments - that's the team.

Unfortunately in the business world, we speak to the accountant, the CFO, they're important they keep the machine running and the things but at the end of the day, who will win is the team and essentially the head of HR, the chief people officer, the CHRO, however you want to call it, is the key person and should have the metrics to be able to report and that's what we are helping organizations to do.

Peter: One last question for you. Can you share with us maybe one or two key takeaways from your session today?

Yves: Yeah, and that's at the end of the session I asked each of the individual to just say if you had a couple of one-key practical thing that you could give the audience here, what would it be? So I will give those that were shared.

The first one was one of the approach about making sure that your interview process is well done. That's something that is very often overseen because there are these wrong perceptions that you're great at it and so revisit that interview process. It's very critical. So I completely agree with that.

The other end of the spectrum is the on boarding. That was the second approach is just to say on boarding is really critical because that's when you made a decision that is individually is key but that's when you have the ramp up happening and the acculturations and all of those things. So on-boarding is also a key step that needs to be- where you need to pay attention. That's where you also differentiate yourself as a department not only to be a résumé pusher where you just send résumé but you actually really help really the departments to be productive sooner from an ROI standpoint is also very, very important.

The third one and I will add two more. The third one from the third panel member was about SLA (Service Level Agreement). Typically, a talent acquisition department has some metrics that they measured because quality is so hard to measure; typically it's cost and time. And his recommendations was put out through the window. You shouldn't use it because that will impact the quality of what you're after. So SLAs are a good guideline. You should have obviously not look at them at all. But if you ask any business leader and you just say would you rather pay 10% more and or wait one week more but have a top talent rather than to have it on-time but you not completely sure about the quality? They will all say "We are after quality." And so one week or 10% more for the cost we're okay because again when you make the ROI, it's a multiple of that. It's hundred times more, even more and there are a number of studies showing that.

And finally, my advice for a talent acquisition leader today or talent management leader is they are so busy today, there are so many things going on. Focus on low hanging fruits in terms of what can you do today that will impact the quality very quickly? And there are a couple of things that you can do. We share the ability to gain digitally the feedback from their peers, etc., that's one way that you can easily test. You can just say let's put 3 recruiters for a couple of weeks and it will know. That's one way to do it.

Same thing for interviewing; let' make sure that we interview better. That's a low hanging fruit. You can fix that. It may be harder if you want to scale that to the whole organization but in the essence. So I would say make sure you focus on low hanging fruit to have a huge impact because that's something that will create a huge difference for your organization.

Yves Lermusi is the founder and CEO of Checkster and you'll find this interview in the Talent Decision Channel on TotalPicture Radio. That's totalpicture.com. This is Peter Clayton. Thanks for listening today.

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